Searching for safety: Displaced for the second time
When the first bombs fell over Mariupol on February 24, 2022, and Darya and Stanislav were awakened by the explosions at five in the morning, memories immediately came flooding back to them. It was only in 2014 that the couple had fled Russian attacks from Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine. They fled to Mariupol with their two-year-old son Bogdan. At that time, the Russian army had attacked cities in eastern Ukraine and eventually annexed Crimea. By 2022, there was repeated fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army along the so-called contact line in Donbass, culminating in Russia's war of aggression on large parts of Ukraine in February 2022.
New home in Mariupol of short duration
After Darya and Stanislav's family found safety in Mariupol in 2014, they began to build a new life there. They opened two restaurants and their second son Maksym was born in Mariupol. On February 24, 2022, the family again experienced a nightmare when the war broke out.
It was immediately clear for Darya that she had to get her sons, ten-year-old Bogdan and six-year-old Maksym, to safety. "I thought that if we don't leave today, we won't get out of here alive," she says. The family headed west in a train full of people trying to flee Mariupol. Lviv, a city 80 kilometers from the Polish border, was their destination. Darya and Stanislav hoped for protection for their children and for themselves. " We were traveling by train for 20 hours. We had only the bare essentials with us, some clothes, food and water. My husband had to stand in the corridor the whole time."
At the train station in Lviv, Malteser Ukraine staff welcomed the family and provided them with warm meals and drinks. "In the first weeks of the war, it was bitterly cold in Ukraine. For weeks, the temperatures were below zero and it snowed. It was important that we, as Malteser Ukraine, reacted quickly and so we set up emergency shelters for the refugees at the train station in addition to providing direct supplies," reports Pavlo Titko, head of Malteser Ukraine in Lviv. Many refugees, such as the family of Darya and Stanislav, did not want to leave Ukraine and instead sought shelter in the west of the country.
Darya and Stanislav's family also found a temporary place to stay in one of the shelters. "In Lviv, we finally feel safe. We have grown fond of the city. The volunteers in our emergency shelter are like our godparents. Thanks to the people here, I feel alive again and have I realized that I want to be here, that I want to try to arrive a second time and build something new - for the sake of the children and our future," says Darya.
Darya and Stanislav have opened a restaurant again: A sushi place in the middle of the city. Giving up is not an option for them. Darya dreams that the war will soon be over again and that she and her family can finally arrive properly, without fear but with perspectives: "I'm so tired of having to flee and of being afraid all the time. I just want to live. In Ukraine," says Darya.